In an Ancient Roman Garden

Michael Levy
Michael Levy


An evocation of the lost tranquility of Classical antiquity...

This single features a completely spontaneous improvisations for chelys (tortoise shell form) lyre, recorded, live in my own garden at the height of summer, with nothing but the soothing, timeless background sounds of flowing water and birdsong.

Unlike ancient Greece, from which we are lucky enough to have at least 60 fragments of actual written music (notated in the unambiguous alphabetical system of ancient Greek musical notation, whereby specific alphabetical symbols represented specific pitches), there is strangely not a shred of written music to have survived from ancient Rome.

However, as the Romans so obviously borrowed so much from the artistic culture of ancient Greece, particularly in art and architecture, it goes without saying that when it came to music, it is therefore incredibly likely that they also borrowed many musical ideas from ancient Greece as well. This is evident by the similarity between depictions of the ancient Roman kithara and tortoise shell lyres (for example, in the fresco's found preserved in Pompeii and Herculaneum) to their ancient Greek counterparts.

Therefore, in putting together this single, I used an ancient Greek mode; the distinctively warm and contented-sounding ancient Greek Hypophrygian Mode - this mode was the equivalent intervals as G-G on the white notes of the piano, (misnamed the 'Mixolydian' mode in the Middle Ages). I also tuned my lyre in the ancient, authentically pure tuning system of just intonation.

The main challenge of recording this piece, live in my own garden, was avoiding also recording the almost omnipresent, tinnitus-like 21st century background noise - to those with more sensitive ears, a few tiny snippets of '21st century auditory blemishes' may have very slightly stained the image of the purity of Classical serenity I was trying to portray, but in general, I think I accomplished the monumental task to the best of my ability! Enjoy a taste of my evocation of the lost tranquility of the Classical world...


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